Victoria State Emergency Service (VICSES) is a volunteer based organisation, providing ground support during emergencies. They respond to natural disasters such as flood, storm, earthquake, tsunami and landslide, to road rescue, and supporting other emergency service organisations such as VIC Police, Fire Services and Ambulance VIC in incident management roles. VICSES are the control agency for flood, storm, tsunami, earthquake and landslide throughout Victoria, and provide the largest road rescue network in Australia, with specialist teams in 102 of their 149 units across the state. VICSES comprise more than 5000 volunteers and 200 employees
Before 2005 VICSES did not have a centralised state wide system to respond to emergency situation anywhere in Victoria. Individual units in regions responded to emergencies via local community phone numbers, which did not allow for a coordinated and effective central response. In 2005 VICSES removed all local numbers and instead introduced a state wide number. Since many of their members are located in remote areas, critical to this change was implementing a far reaching communication system with a reliable state of the art back up system. Another gap in the requirements was a conferencing system which would allow VICSES to conduct regional briefings, removing the need for members to travel.
“ADTEC provides us with a very clear and easy redundancy system for alerting while also bridging the communication gap with our geo dispersed members”
Manager Operational Communications, Victoria State Emergency Service
VICSES introduced a pager system to reach out to remote area members. The ADTEC system was selected which filled both the gaps for VICSES- a reliable back up to pager system in mission critical situations as well as conferencing capabilities. When the pager system, which is one way only, fails, the ADTEC system gives them the ability to instantly contact critical team members in the regions by way of “forced one to many” conference capability to coordinate their response activities. As a result the public now has one state wide number to call in any emergency to activate the VICSES service. VICSES believe it is now a much more structured service.
ADTEC has become VICSES’s primary system of redundancy. It allows them to get a positive response instantly instead of messaging, “That’s an advantage over our primary alerting system where you send a message and wait for a response. Using ADTEC voice capability, you get it right there and then”, Andrew Morrison, Manager Operational Communications, VICSES states. VICSES are very confident of the reliability and robustness of the ADTEC system. As Andrew recalls “once our paging network had an unknown error sending out scrambled messages and it took us more than 12 hours to resolve the issue. Compared to other agencies who have a complicated back up system, we were able to enact ADTEC very early on which made it very easy for our members and operators” VICSES believe the time saving during life threatening events using ADTEC system is significant.
VICSES find the ADTEC system flexible to use as they can opt for the level of security they require. As Andrew puts it - “For our members and external parties its very important to have a dedicated number allocated to each one and you are not changing and chopping for every conference. The system also gives us the option not to have a pin number, which is one of best features”
A number of smaller VICSES road rescue units have also embraced the ADTEC system. The system is activated to get all the members on the phone instantly to share the information about the incident and coordinate response. The teams are able to see who is available and which team to send. “This sort of coordination can’t happen on paging or other messaging apps. You can push messages out, but you can’t manage the incident as with ADTEC”, says Andrew.
Another gap the ADTEC system has been able to fill is the dial in conferencing capability during “business as usual” situations. It has helped VICSES reduce costs to conduct briefings for geo dispersed members which could be numerous times in a week.
Another feature of the ADTEC system VICSES finds beneficial is the ease of use and intuitiveness. As Andrew puts it, “It is a simple and easy system to use, requires minimum training, very little maintenance, you just know that its reliable”
In the end Andrew states that in absence of ADTEC, there would be no redundancies in place and would cause delays in activating emergency response members when the primary alerting system failed, which happens several times a year. Additionally VICSES would have to purchase a separate conference system for business as usual situations.